HANSEN — Hollywood stuntman Eddie Braun has done what Evel Knievel couldn’t.
Braun rocketed himself over the Snake River Canyon Friday and landed safely — and gently — on the other side.
“This is a once in a lifetime deal,” one spectator told his children before Braun’s steam-powered rocket, the Evel Spirit, took flight.
With the widow and daughter of his longtime hero watching, Braun climbed the stairs to the rocket which was sitting on the ramp.
Alicia Knievel Vincent, the youngest of Evel Knievel’s offspring, yelled, “Eddie!” and Braun turned at the top of the stairs, waved and blew a kiss to the crowd.
A few minutes later, a voice over a loudspeaker gave the one-minute warning and two drones flew past the ramp. A golden eagle circled overhead.
“Look, it’s a spirit animal,” said someone in the crowd. “Evel’s flying with Eddie.”
Then, with a hiss and a swoosh the rocket shot up the 100-foot long ramp and into the air. When it ran out of steam — about 5 seconds later — the rocket pointed its nose down and the crowd held a collective breath.
“Come on, Eddie, pull the chute” was uttered throughout the crowd.
Krystal Kennedy-Knievel, Evel’s widow, stood motionless with her hand over her mouth until the drogue chute appeared behind the rocket. When it did, the crowd sighed, then took another breath while waiting for the main chute to appear.
After the rocket slowed, the main chute popped open and the Evel Spirit seemed to stop in midair. The crowd cheered anxiously and watched the rocket drift slowly to the ground while a light mist from the launch settled on the crowd.
Minutes later came the word over staffers’ radios.
Tears of joy streamed from many, while others hoisted a beer or two in celebration.
Celebration for two
Braun called the launch his “epic dream.”
It was also the dream of Scott Truax, whose father, Robert Truax, designed and built the steam engine that powered Knievel’s “Skycycle”.
Knievel’s failed jump in 1974 was blamed on the premature deployment of the Skycycle’s parachute, which could be seen dragging behind the rocket as it climbed the ramp. The rocket engine blew the parachute cover off its housing and released the chute, which slowed the rocket and dragged it into the canyon.
“My dad was a good man and a smart man,” Truax said in January at his home in Twin Falls. “Sadly, this brilliant rocket scientist is best remembered for a failure.”
But not anymore.
“I feel like the no-name third string quarterback of a junior varsity team that just won the Super Bowl,” Braun said. “My team got me there. I ran it into the end zone. We scored and won.”